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Chicopee Woods earns $5K grant to beautify school

POSTED: January 11, 2014 11:53 p.m.

Car riders and parents leave Chicopee Woods Elementary School Friday afternoon. Educators will use part of a $5,000 grant to put murals, plants and bigger benches in the foyer where parents pick up their children.

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When teachers Jennifer Ezell and Michelle Cantrell recently toured elementary schools locally and around the state, they were impressed with front entrances.

The bright colors and comfortable seating areas stood in contrast to the entrance at their school, Chicopee Woods Elementary.

“It’s pretty, but it doesn’t scream ‘elementary school,’” Ezell said. “The feeling in this building is very warm and welcoming, but the walls and the color scheme don’t reflect that. It feels and looks like a doctor’s office.”

Changing that image became a top priority this year with a school goal of increasing parent involvement.

Cantrell and Ezell learned this week Chicopee Woods Elementary has received a grant from Lowe’s Toolbox for Education program, totalling $5,000.

“We’re so excited,” Cantrell said. “There’s a need to really be sensitive to things that our parents could use while they’re here at the school. A lot of our parents have to take taxicabs to and from our school, and we don’t have a place for them where they can sit and wait for their kids.”

To make the entrance more inviting, the grant will fund enhancements like flowers and plants around the lobby; benches for the lobby and right outside of the doors; and a grill and picnic tables for the patio area, which will be used as an outside lunchroom for parent meetings and class-level celebrations.

Colorful, student-painted murals will line the front entrance, and a couch will be purchased for a reading area in the hallway, where parents and mentors can have a separate space to chat with students.

The school’s grant application states 96 percent of the students live in poverty, and many of their parents don’t speak English.

“Coming to our building is a daunting, intimidating and difficult task as many parents do not drive and it is a $20 cab ride to get here,” the application reads in part. “We want to drastically change how our parents feel when they come in our building, when they are waiting for taxicabs, to make them feel like the valued partner they are in their child’s education.”

Principal Hank Ramey said the changes will not only be visually appealing, but also help parents better navigate their way around the front of the building.

“This grant is going to help us with trying to create that family-friendly environment,” Ramey said. “(We want) to be a user-friendly, open-type campus that will encourage visitors to come into our building. That’s what we’re seeking.”


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